On Saturday, May 13, about 500 people gathered at St. John the Baptist parish, Fort Wayne, for a special morning that kicked off the 100th anniversary celebration of the Fatima apparitions. A clear blue sky greeted the faithful as they arrived at the church, just hours after Pope Francis canonized two of the Fatima shepherd children, St. Francisco and St. Jacinta.
Mass began with the Bishop Luers High School choir raising their voices in song while a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, carried by four Franciscan Friars Minor, processed down the church’s main aisle, flanked by Knights of Columbus standing at full attention. Three children dressed as the Fatima seers followed the statue. Servers, deacons, con-celebrating priests and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades rounded out the procession as the smell of incense slowly filled the church.
May 13, 1917, started off more simply for 10-year old Lucia dos Santos, 9-year old Francisco Marto and his sister, 7-year old Jacinta Marto. They were tending their family’s sheep when they saw a bright flash of light and were subsequently greeted, for the first time, by Mary. It was also on this day that the shepherd children joyfully accepted their mission to bear sufferings in reparation for sins and as supplication for the conversion of sinners.
Bishop Rhoades focused on this first apparition in his homily. He noted the significance of the radiant light shining from Our Lady, which penetrated and comforted the souls of the children after they accepted their mission. “They had received the light of Christ’s truth and love through the Blessed Mother, and they would spread that light. They would live as children of the light within the darkness of the world,” he said.
Bishop Rhoades then reflected upon the astonishing way the children lived out their vocation and mission. “Francisco and Jacinta put into practice, in their very short lives, all that Our Lady taught them about prayer, sacrifice, suffering and reparation. Lucia would too, for the next 87 years of her life.” Francisco, he said, “had the Holy Spirit’s gift of piety and was so fervent in his prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.”
Jacinta, the younger sister of Francisco, was so incredibly impacted by the vision of hell in the third apparition that “she offered herself completely for the salvation of souls. This little girl, who died at the age of 9, reached the heights of sanctity.” Lastly, he pointed out the request Our Lady made at all six Fatima apparitions: to pray the rosary every day.
“Let’s ask Our Lady, through the rosary, to pray for us as we strive to live as children of the light in the dramatic struggle between light and darkness, between good and evil. Two little children, now saints, show us the way: prayer and sacrifice and penance.”
When Mass ended, the rosary was prayed while the holy Eucharist was exposed. The Fatima prayers and a consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary prayer followed. After Benediction, a Marian procession began outside the church and ended in the parish hall with coffee and donuts for everyone.
The diocesan division of the World Apostolate of Fatima worked with the diocese in planning the day’s events. “It was a great celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of this incredible apparition that helped the world understand that God is real” and to “re-orient it back to Christ in simplicity and love and truth and goodness and beauty,” said the division’s spiritual director, Father Glenn Kohrman. Ida List, the division’s president, added: “I was absolutely amazed at the hundreds of people filling the church. The Lord gave us such a beautiful and glorious day.”
Among the faithful in attendance was a strong Franciscan presence, consisting of about 60 Franciscan Friars Minor as well as religious from the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration.
As part of the centennial celebration some parishes in the diocese will celebrate additional anniversary Masses on the 13th of each month, from June through October. The celebrations will include Mass, a talk on that month’s apparition, the rosary, exposition and benediction, Fatima prayers, a Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary or a Marian procession. In addition, the Franciscan Friars Minor will make a walking pilgrimage, carrying a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, across the diocese Oct. 7-13. Look for details in Today’s Catholic and at www.fatimafwsb.org.
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